Taiwan and Hong Kong Authorities in Dispute Over Murder Suspect Who Was Impetus for Extradition Bill

Taiwan and Hong Kong Authorities in Dispute Over Murder Suspect Who Was Impetus for Extradition Bill
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam attends a question and answer session at the Legislative Council (Legco) in Hong Kong on Oct. 17, 2019. (Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images)
Frank Fang

TAIPEI, Taiwan—The Taiwanese government is questioning the motivation behind Hong Kong authorities’ claims that murder suspect Chan Tong-kai sent city leader Carrie Lam a surrender letter asking Hong Kong to return him to Taiwan for prosecution.

Chan, a Hong Kong resident, is the main suspect in the murder of Poon Hiu-wing, his then-pregnant girlfriend. According to Taiwanese media, the two were visiting Taiwan in February 2018. Poon’s body was later found in a suitcase that had been dumped in a field near a metro station in New Taipei City.

Chan returned to Hong Kong before local authorities could investigate the crime. In December 2018, Taiwanese authorities issued an arrest warrant, requesting that the Hong Kong government return him to the island to face trial. But according to Taiwan authorities, their multiple requests went unanswered.

Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese rule from British rule in 1997 with the express guarantee of autonomy, doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Taiwan. Meanwhile, the Chinese regime doesn’t recognize the Taiwanese government, as it considers the island part of its territory, despite it being self-ruled, with its own democratically elected government, currency, and military.

The Hong Kong government, headed by Carrie Lam, used Chan’s case to push for the controversial extradition bill that has sparked mass protests since June. Millions took to the streets over concerns that the now-shelved bill—which would have allowed any region, including mainland China, to seek transfers of criminal suspects from Hong Kong—would erode the city’s judicial autonomy if passed. Hongkongers have continued to take to the streets, demanding that the city government answer their calls for greater democracy and an independent inquiry into the police violence against protesters during the past 20 weeks.

In March 2018, Chan was arrested in Hong Kong on money laundering charges, for stealing money and valuables from his dead girlfriend. He was sentenced to 29 months imprisonment. Hong Kong authorities said he wasn’t prosecuted in relation to the alleged murder due to lack of evidence.

Due to a plea bargain, Chan had his sentenced reduced and is scheduled to be released on Oct. 23.

The Hong Kong government issued a press release on Oct. 18 stating that Lam received a letter from Chan in which he expressed the wish to surrender himself to Taiwanese authorities, after his release, for his alleged involvement in the murder. Additionally, the government claimed that the courts in Hong Kong had “no jurisdiction” over Chan’s case.
On Oct. 20, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the government agency tasked with cross-strait affairs, responded to the news in a press release questioning the Hong Kong government’s motivation for publicizing Chan’s “willingness” to surrender himself.
The MAC stated that Taiwan authorities had sought to work out a mutual legal agreement with Hong Kong since November 2018, but the city has refused to sign a bilateral extradition treaty—though it has such a treaty with 30 other countries—an act that “diminishes” Taiwan’s sovereignty by not treating it as a legitimate state, instead treating Taiwan as a part of China.

The statement further said that the Hong Kong government’s decision to announce Chan’s letter was a “political maneuver” to demonstrate that the extradition bill was necessary.

The MAC also refuted the Hong Kong government’s claim that it has no jurisdiction, saying that both Chan and Poon are Hong Kong citizens.

Following the MAC’s statement, the Hong Kong government issued another press release, stating that the allegation of political maneuvering was “groundless.”
At a press conference on Oct. 21, Taiwan’s Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang said the Taiwan government wasn’t shirking from its “jurisdiction” over Chan’s case, but rather, wished to handle the case under a formal mutual agreement with Hong Kong.

High-ranking Taiwanese government officials also questioned Chan’s “willingness.”

Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang, speaking at a press conference on Oct. 21, said that Beijing was pulling strings behind the Hong Kong government to wrongly legitimize Lam’s extradition bill. Hsu Kuo-yung, Taiwan’s Minister of the Interior, told reporters that as Chan could face the death penalty if convicted in Taiwan, his so-called willingness was against human nature. Hsu questioned whether Chan was coerced into expressing his desire to face trial in Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency.
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
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